Headlines: February 8th, 2005

Local authorities have given a big votre of approval to the Rent Service, the body that provides a rental valuation service for private accommodation for Housing Benefit purposes. A customer satifaction survey of its work in the last year shows an overwhelming majority of councils feel it is doing well.The service is an Executive Agency of the Department for Work and Pensions with 755 staff operating in 33 offices around England. Its work centres on the private rented housing sector in England, determining local reference rents and single room rents, and setting local housing allowances in support of the Housing Benefit Pathfinder Schemes. It deals with about 900,000 Housing Benefit related cases each year.

The 2004-05 National Customer Satisfaction Survey consulted all landlords and tenants whose properties had been inspected by rent officers and asked them for their views on the level of service provided by the agency. More than 94 per cent rated the Rent Service’s performance as satisfactory to very good.
The performance is even better in terms of the Service’s work with local authorities. The survey consulted 354 council Housing Benefit Managers. More than 99 per cent rated the level of service satisfactory to very good. The agency has worked closely with the DWP on Housing Benefit reform, particularly in areas which have introduced Local Housing Allowances.

Work and Pensions Minister, Chris Pond, was pleased with the positive reaction from customers and stakeholders but said the aim was continuous improvement year on year, and he would be looking for other ways to improve the delivery of its services to customers in the year ahead.